The advent of the hybrid way of work has completely changed how a new hire is integrated into the company and its culture. And it’s much more than welcoming them and lining up a series of one to ones. In today’s era of war for talent, helping new joiners develop a sense of connect and belongingness to their new organization goes a long way in positively impacting employee engagement, employee retention, motivation, and productivity.
A great onboarding program begins as soon as a candidate is selected, extends throughout the employee’s joining, through first 90 days, and may even extend out for a full year to ensure new hires are fully supported as they ramp to full productivity.”
The onboarding shift
As the pandemic raged on, organizations were forced almost overnight to carry out onboarding activities for new joiners in a never-before online only format. With the personal touch and connect of in-person new hire joining being snatched away, organizations were left scrambling for tools and technologies to assimilate their new hires seamlessly into their ecosystem. Finding the right technological aid became critical, especially because onboarding is not just limited to welcoming a new employee, but involves a variety of government-mandated statutes such as form filling and new joiner formalities, leading to a lot of data being collected, generated and stored. Hence, it is critical to uphold data privacy and security while scouting for the right tool. Over and above these logistical hassles, remote joining of employees meant faceless communication and isolation. But with the right application, an impactful remote employee onboarding system can be adopted. Here’s what you need to know:
Design the process with right purpose: To design an onboarding process, leaders must ask themselves a few core questions, such as “What impression do you want new hires to walk away with at the end of the first day?”, “What do new employees need to know about the culture and work environment?” and “What kind of goals do you want to set for new employees?”. This will help HR understand the overarching purpose and define the objective of having an onboarding program in the first place.
Enable operations online: Many onboarding activities will need logistical revamp from an HR Operations perspective. HR must start with making a checklist of activities, from converting any hard copy training manuals, contracts, employee handbooks, and policy and procedure packets into digital files. Companies would do better by investing in an employee portal that hosts an onboarding module.
Ensure access: Out of sight need not be out of mind. In fact, emerging technologies are far from out of sight. Virtual collaboration tools such as digital conferencing, file sharing, messaging apps etc. confer great power to bring together people virtually. But while designing the modules, HR must remember that access is not just about making connections; it entails enabling access to resources, access to people and access to tools and information that can bring people up to speed to perform in their roles.
Align self-paced tasks: Whether it is about clarifying company elements such as policies or benefits, or uploading statutory forms, self-service modules work best for the modern-day employee. The onboarding HRIS module must be designed with proper completion mechanisms, such as email triggers and completion dashboards, to ensure process completion as per expected norms. A self-paced module creates a pull rather than a hard push, placing the new joiner at the centre of the process.
Adhere to compliance norms: New hire activities include many government and statutory mandates such as employment forms, payroll data, etc. This piece of the onboarding system must be designed to have all necessary checks and balances from a compliance perspective. Process workflows must flow as per quantitative and qualitative mandates, with both automated and human checks every step of the way.
Enable two-way dialogue: An onboarding system must not be a one-way information giving mechanism, it must enable two-way dialogue and discussion. For example, setting up virtual connects of the new team member with leaders is a great way towards inclusion. Holding one-on-ones with new hires helps offer timely and valuable support. A virtual buddy program can help establish a fun, informal connect.
Encourage regular feedback touchpoints: Virtual connect should work in reverse direction too i.e. feedback gathering from the new hire. HR technologies that enable new hire surveys, one-on-one meetings, and goal and performance tracking software can help create these multiple feedback touch points.
Support training: While the HRIS may have features and tools for communication and feedback, it will work only when the organization builds feedback into the culture. HR must invest in training new hires on how to give and receive feedback, and in training managers on setting goals and coaching new hires on how to achieve objectives. In a virtual environment, this may mean leveraging podcasts, VILTs, e-coaching, micro-learning, gamified learning and other new-age learning means.
Making virtual onboarding a priority
The business case for onboarding systems is well documented. 93 percent of respondents to Deloitte’s 2020 Global Human Capital Trends survey indicated that a sense of belonging drives organizational performance. Another Glassdoor research suggests that a strong onboarding process can improve productivity by more than 70 percent.
Clearly, it is in the interest of the organization to prioritize onboarding as a key HR process, and leaders must proactively invest in seamless onboarding technologies. This is especially true for today’s hybrid workforce, where driving a seamless paperless onboarding workflow can create a ‘wow’ experience from the first employee touchpoint onwards and set new employees up for success.
This article is part of a series on preparing for a flexible future of work in partnership with Zimyo.